Jan 242015

This entire week, I have been touching on some of my goals for 2015. I discussed streamlining my creative process, or being more efficient, in Efficiency meets serenpidity. In Using paper scraps to craft accent flowers, I stressed my desire to shop less and use existing materials more. Optimizing my craft storage and working space is also on my list of goals for 2015. In May of last year, I finally retired from my 12-year stint as Co-Affiliate Training Director for Iowa’s Destination Imagination program, which involved keeping lots of records and tracking many different projects simultaneously. During five years of that same period, I developed a gifted education after-school enrichment program for local elementary schools, and taught German at those same schools and out of my home for even longer. While most people who know me claim that my approach to projects is organized—and they are correct if they look through my computer files—what they don’t see are the cartons of paper files, the books, binders, and hands-on materials that have accumulated on shelves, the garage, the basement, and even in my crafting areas. What in the world do retired teachers do with all of their materials?!

Training materials collage

So, one of my goals this year is not only to reduce the space training materials occupy, but to use that same space for my crafting materials that, quite frankly, spill onto every horizontal space I can find in the house. It is a struggle to keep the kitchen table cleared, as it is the biggest working-height flat space. After every work session, I have promised myself to put things away. But wait a moment! There are a couple of working spaces available that may not need to be torn down daily . . . if only I can clear them off first.

In my sewing room, I removed the laptop on the writing desk to turn it into a cutting table/paper crafting surface. However, I can hardly use it in its current state. Hopefully the incentive to clean up this desk will follow soon, since it’s embarrassing to see this mess on the Web.

Writing Desk

In the basement, there is an old dining room table I inherited from my mom after she passed away that is actually bigger than the kitchen table, if only I would sweep it clean. I have no idea what is buried on the other side of the light box, which also needs to be relocated. Obviously, this mess is worse than the one in the sewing room, but not by much.

Basement table

As for my paper crafting studio, that is where I store tools, paper and paper crafting embellishments. It’s also where my laptop resides, so it’s my writing room. And if we have a guest, it can be a spare bedroom. In a word, it’s not a good place to craft! I do have a nice view outside of my window, though—rain, sunshine, or snow.

Looking out the window

And then there are the put-aways. (Don’t tell me you don’t have such a thing!) Sitting in a basket (and elsewhere) are paper crafting tools and supplies that need to be put away. Sometimes items sit in one place because I haven’t yet settled on a practical storage system.

Basket of put-aways

Previously I stored wood-mounted rubber stamps in plastic see-through shoe boxes. While they fit nicely (jigsaw-style, that is), you can imagine what happened when I needed the stamp at the bottom of the box. The box got dumped. Recently I discovered these shallow clam shell-type plastic packages at my local scrapbooking store. They are called Stufftainers™ by Stampendous, and come in all kinds of depths, ranging from 7/16 inch to one inch. This is the “thicker” size (actually labeled that way), recommended for organizing your wood-mounted stamps. I store my containers on a shelf, stacked, but the Stampendous folks suggest storing them vertically in a magazine rack, color-coding them with ribbon tied to the tab that is intended for hanging the Stufftainers.

Stufftainers by Stampendous

They work quite nicely for my collection of Faber-Castell Gelatos water-soluble crayons and related supplies, too.


In short, 2015 will be a year when I will work toward better organization of work space and supplies. I’m sure it will be a continuing goal. When you craft, it’s the nature of the beast to spread your things out to make selections. In fact, that chaos inspires creativity until . . . it blocks you because there are too many choices and/or no space in which to create. What are some of your favorite ways to control creative chaos? Let me know in the comments below.

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jan 212015

Earlier this week I mentioned that one of my goals in 2015 is to find ways to streamline my creative process. In other words, I want to work more efficiently. A second goal is to be more thrifty—to use more of the materials I have on hand instead of buying new ones so frequently. Right now I am working my way through a box filled with packages of paper-and-fabric flowers from Petaloo, Pink Paislee, Prisma and lots of other companies whose names don’t begin with the letter “P.” Some of the flowers are too big to use for my mini books, so I will have to find other uses for them.

Box of paper-and-fabric flowers

One fact is certain, however. I will likely run out of some colors of flowers faster than others, and will need to replace them. My intent is to use the scraps of paper I save after crafting projects are completed. I throw few scraps away, as you can tell from the messy three-ring binder below, in which I’ve grouped papers into approximate color families. The binder is hyper-extended when closed, so it’s obvious that I have plenty of paper scraps to craft flowers. It takes time to do so, but is creatively satisfying.

Scrap paper binder

I have run out of certain shades of purple flowers, and have no lavender ones at all, so when I needed to complete a book cover a couple of days ago, I flipped through the pages of my scrap paper binder until I found the color I needed. It took very few items to assemble my flower:

  • paper, glue and scissors
  • Tim Holtz® Alterations Movers & Shapers™ dies and a Bigz die, all of them from the Tattered Florals line
  • Sizzix Starry Night embossing folder to texturize the paper
  • Tim Holtz® Distress Ink in Victoria Velvet to modify the color of the paper somewhat
  • a skinny paintbrush whose handle was used to curl the petals in a random fashion
  • an adhesive pearl for the center of the flower

Basic tools for first flower

All I had to do was cut out the flowers with my Big Shot die cutting machine, emboss them, color them, curl the petals, and glue the pieces together. If you don’t have a cutting die, I honestly think you could draw the flowers freehand and cut them out with scissors. It’s a simple process.

First flower

The assembly process for the above flower was so easy, in fact, that I decided to challenge myself yesterday by crafting a second flower using a tutorial from talented scrapbooking artist Lisa Nazario-Gregory of the blog, What a Beautiful Mess, not to be confused with the Web site, A Beautiful Mess. They are two completely different sites. Almost two years ago, Creative Director Tim Holtz of Ranger Industries ran a design contest using Tattered Flowers cutting dies. Lisa was one of the five winners. You can see her beautiful flowers in the first photo in this post, and you can find her tutorials in the side bar of her blog. I skimmed through her tutorials, searching for the ones that used Tattered Florals dies, until I narrowed my choice down to the Fairy Cosmos Flower. This flower uses a combination of McGill flower punches, as well as a Tattered Florals die.

McGill and Tattered Florals Dies

Lisa does such a wonderful job of outlining the steps for making this flower that I am going to refer you directly to her tutorial.

One of the nice things about the Tattered Florals dies is that there is virtually no wrong way to assemble the flowers, as long as you build them up from the largest layer to the smallest. You can make your flowers from paper, fabric, foil, corrugated cardboard, grunge board or grunge paper, leftover clear plastic packaging, and I’m sure there are materials I’ve left off of this list. Basically, you’re limited only by your imagination. In the video below, Sizzix art room designer Debi Adams discusses many possible materials that can be used with the Bigz XL Jumbo Tattered Florals Die by Tim Holtz®.

As for me, my version of Lisa Nazario-Gregory’s Fairy Cosmos Flower matches the gratitude book I created over the weekend. I can’t wait to see what other kinds of flowers I can craft using Tattered Florals dies.

2nd flower

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jan 192015

I’ve mentioned previously that the handcrafted books I make involve a time-and-labor intensive process. While this fact hasn’t changed, one of my goals this year is to find ways in the creative process to become more efficient. Obviously, that increases my overall profit, as a pricing formula is supposed to include not only a value for the cost of materials used, but also a value for your time. Some of the obvious steps anyone who creates and sells can take include:

  • Spend fewer dollars on materials by buying items on sale or at wholesale prices.
  • Use fewer materials.
  • Use materials you have on hand (which assumes you have organized your work space so you can locate these materials easily).
  • Streamline the making process to include fewer steps.
  • Recruit an assistant for mundane tasks. This could be a willing family member, but it might also be someone you hire for a few hours every week.

Well . . . likely I am still not being paid for all of my time (ahem), but I have discovered a few ways to be more efficient in the use of that time. These methods apply to everyone who sells handmade products:

  • Group similar tasks together, and work assembly line style.
  • Find an alternative method to accomplish a time-intensive task (such as a new tool that speeds up your process).

In my quest to be more efficient, I looked at the part of my bookcrafting process that I enjoy least, takes the most physical effort, and uses up the most time: sanding the edges of book covers. My book covers use heavyweight chipboard as a foundation, with rounded corners to help prevent the chipboard layers from separating over time. (Did you know that chipboard is made up of compressed layers of cardboard?) Then I use a Dremel drill sanding tool to smooth out the rough edges, and follow up with hand sanding to “seal” the paper to the chipboard so that the paper is less likely, over time, to lift up from the chipboard. Finally, I brush the edges with a walnut stain distress ink just for appearance’s sake. There are lots of steps involved to achieve this look.

Secret Garden Gratitude Book

Secret Garden Gratitude Book

This year I asked myself why I couldn’t simply wrap the paper around the edges of the same heavyweight chipboard, instead of sanding the edges, and eliminate the distress ink on the edges. I’ve done that for a few books previously, namely envelope mini albums and accordion fold photo books.

The Love We Share Pocket Envelope Album

The Love We Share Pocket Envelope Album

Elephant Walk Mini Photo Book

Elephant Walk Mini Photo Book

I’m not sure why I didn’t use this process for the rest of my books, since it’s much faster, but this past weekend I assembled seven books using this method in the time that would normally take me a week.

Habits are difficult to break, however. I was accustomed to gluing a vertical ribbon accent down the front of my books as one of the last steps in completing a book. So, I did the same with the book covers I crafted this weekend, completing one set of covers after another . . . but without a ribbon embellishment. I simply forgot about it. And then I realized I should have glued paper to the front cover, adhered ribbon next so it could wrap around the top and bottom edges of the book to the inside, and then cover with a square of paper on the inside front cover for a neat, finished look. Oops.

Forgot the ribbon accent

I wondered if there might be an alternative to ribbon that would still look nice. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a Sizzix Sizzlits® Die sitting on the floor in my craft room, waiting to be put away properly. Hmm, I thought. That could be useful.

Sizzlits Die

Next thing I knew, I was slicing up paper swirls on my Big Shot die cutting machine, and then lining up book covers for embellishment.

Pile of paper swirls

I love it when efficiency meets serendipity. What do you think?

7 books in one weekend

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.